Thursday, May 19, marks Hepatitis Testing Day (#HepTestingDay) 2022. Scheduled in the middle of Hepatitis Awareness Month (#HepAware), it’s a chance to bring attention to the liver disease and to promote hepatitis testing, treatment and vaccinations.
Specifically, according to the Department of Health and Human Services, the goal of #HepTestingDay is “to help raise awareness of hepatitis B and hepatitis C and to encourage more individuals to learn their status. It is a day for people at risk for viral hepatitis to be tested and for health care providers to educate patients about viral hepatitis and testing.”
The CDC estimates only half of patients are aware they have hepatitis. Children under age 6 rarely show any symptoms. The disease can take decades to be detectable, which underscores the urgency of vaccination to stop the spread.#HepatitisAwarenessMonth #HepAware2022 pic.twitter.com/gpDphBNSeG— Oklahoma Alliance for Healthy Families (@OKHealthyFam) May 16, 2022
Hepatitis means inflammation of the liver. It can lead to cirrhosis (scarring of the liver), liver cancer, the need for a liver transplant and death. Hepatitis can be caused by a number of factors. According to HepMag.com’s Introduction to Hepatitis, these include:
- Toxins and chemicals, such as excessive amounts of alcohol
- Autoimmune diseases that cause the immune system to attack healthy tissues in the body
- Fat, which may cause fatty liver disease
- Microorganisms, including viruses.
In the United States, the three most common types of viral infections are hepatitis A, B and C. They are spread via contaminated food and water (hepatitis A) and shared needles and sex (hepatitis B and C). Transmission via blood transfusion is now very rare. Folks living with HIV have a higher risk for coinfection with viral hepatitis. Effective vaccines are available for hep A and B. What’s more, hep C is curable in most cases (but not HIV and hep B).
Don’t let Hepatitis B win! Getting yourself tested, vaccinated, and talking to your doctor are three steps you can make today! #HepatitisAwarenessMonth #HepatitisB #HepAware2022 pic.twitter.com/PzQ0qezCVL— Asian Health Equity (@CAHE_AHC) May 18, 2022
It’s estimated that 2.4 million Americans were living with chronic hep C between 2013 and 2016 (about 1% of the adult population), according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). What’s more, 14,242 people died of hepatitis C in 2019, and acute hep C cases quadrupled from 2009 to 2019. These numbers will likely climb, spurred by the opioid crisis and injection drug use. (Some 108,000 Americans died of drug overdoses in 2021, a new record.)
A syndemic approach is essential to comprehensively addressing public health issues including #ViralHepatitis, #HIV and others. Learn more with HepVu’s resources: https://t.co/b496tqwfAv pic.twitter.com/QLjiCb1pjG— HepVu (@HepVu) May 16, 2022
HepVu.org offers infographics, articles and maps about viral hepatitis in the United States. The site sums up recommendations for hepatitis testing from the CDC as follows:
- Hepatitis A—Routine testing for hepatitis A prior to vaccination is not necessary or recommended but may be considered among individuals with a high likelihood of previous infection.
- Hepatitis B—Pregnant women during each pregnancy, gay and bisexual men, people who inject drugs, anyone born or whose parents were born in areas where hepatitis B is common. In addition, the CDC released updated vaccination guidance this April recommending universal hepatitis B vaccination for adults 19 to 59 years of age and is considering an expansion of its hep B screening guidelines to include once in a lifetime screening for all persons 18 years of age and older.
- Hepatitis C—All adults aged 18 and older and pregnant women during each pregnancy, anyone with ongoing risk and medical conditions, such as people who inject drugs.
- Hepatitis D— People with a positive hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAG), or current hepatitis B infection, may need hepatitis D testing. You can find a more detailed explanation of hepatitis D testing recommendations here.
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Last year, the federal government released a national plan to end viral hepatitis with five main goals for the next five years:
- Prevent new viral hepatitis infections;
- Improve viral hepatitis–related health outcomes of people with viral hepatitis;
- Reduce viral hepatitis–related disparities and health inequities;
- Improve viral hepatitis surveillance and data use;
- Achieve integrated, coordinated efforts that address the viral hepatitis epidemics among all partners and stakeholders.
In related news, see “Remembering Naomi Judd as a Powerful Voice for Hepatitis C Advocacy,” "Mysterious Hepatitis Outbreak Hitting Kids in U.S. and U.K." and “Pamela Anderson, Who Once Had Hepatitis C, Heads to Broadway [VIDEO].”